By M.D. Kittle
MADISON —Last month, Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes fired off a tweet attacking U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson after Georgia-Pacific announced it was closing its Green Bay Day Street mill in fall 2023.
“Hate to see this. Nearly 200 people could be out of a job when the Georgia-Pacific factory in Green Bay closes down. I got in this race to put an end to factory closings – does Ron Johnson still think we don’t need more good jobs here in Wisconsin?” the part-time lieutenant governor, full-time Democrat campaigner for Johnson’s Senate seat tweeted.
Hate to see this. Nearly 200 people could be out of a job when the Georgia-Pacific factory in Green Bay closes down. I got in this race to put an end to factory closings – does Ron Johnson still think we don’t need more good jobs here in Wisconsin? https://t.co/YNTIjAWJ8u
— Mandela Barnes (@TheOtherMandela) March 18, 2022
It was another insipid Democrat shot at the Republican senator for saying he would not get involved with Oshkosh Defense’s decision to build a new fleet of U.S. Postal Service vehicles at its South Carolina plant, not at its Oshkosh manufacturing complex..
What Barnes left out in his snarky tweet (besides Georgia-Pacific’s $500 million investment creating hundreds of jobs at a second Green Bay mill) is that his boss at his day job, Gov. Tony Evers, vetoed a bill that could have reopened two shuttered paper mills in Wisconsin Rapids and Park Falls.
It was one of many examples of Evers picking winners and losers with the billions of dollars in federal COVID relief fund at his disposal.
The bill called for the governor to authorize the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. to offer $65 million in loans to a group of timber professionals to purchase and operate the mills. The project, advocates said, would have brought back hundreds of jobs to communities devastated when the mills shut down.
“The bill, authored by Republicans and passed with bipartisan support, would have paid for the loans from federal COVID-19 relief funding,” Wisconsin Public Radio reported in July in the wake of Evers’ veto.
The Democrat instead played politics — again. Evers wanted to fund the project with federal incentive money through his big government pet project: Expanding Medicaid. Republicans who control the Legislature have opposed Medicaid expansion because of the rising costs it has brought to states in the form of an unfunded mandate.
Evers’ veto killed hope for the project.
In December, Swedish Packaging company BillerudKorsnas AB, announced the acquisition of Verso Corp., owner of the Wisconsin Rapids mill, with no acknowledged plans to reopen it.
Wisconsin Public Radio reported:
News of the sale of the Ohio-based company Verso could have major implications on Wisconsin’s paper and timber industries. But the Swedish company that’s buying it hasn’t clarified its plans for the shuttered Wisconsin Rapids mill. The Rapids mill employed 900 workers and served as the upper Midwest’s largest buyer of Wisconsin forest products until the company took the mill idle in July 2020. The closure has had lasting effects on the city, and on industries that relied on the mill — especially logging.
Barnes was interestingly silent on Evers’ jobs-killing veto.
From the recent Milwaukee County Democratic Party’s 2022 Gala Awards Dinner, where host tables went for $2,500 and tickets to the sold-out event were $100 a pop, Barnes tweeted photos and declared, “Great to be with @mkedems tonight. The folks in this room are proof: when we come together to stand up for our communities, when we fight for working families and farmers and small business owners, there is nothing we can’t achieve.”
Great to be with @mkedems tonight. The folks in this room are proof: when we come together to stand up for our communities, when we fight for working families and farmers and small business owners, there is nothing we can’t achieve. pic.twitter.com/VLjnnl9yls
— Mandela Barnes (@TheOtherMandela) March 28, 2022
What about the working families in Wisconsin Rapids and Park Falls that Evers and Barnes turned their backs on?
Well, Evers did finally get around to handing out $5.67 million from his federal re-election slush fund for a YMCA in Park Falls.
“The good news here for those unemployed lumber and mill workers is that they can at least go to to the YMCA and participate in the water aerobics program,” State Sen. Patrick Testin said sardonically.
Barnes insists he’s running to “put an end to factory closings.” Apparently he’s not all that concerned about factory re-openings, particularly if doing so gets in the way of the Evers-Barnes liberal agenda.